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View Full Version : Obtaining a secret clearance (us)


Osip
09-11-2000, 07:25 AM
I am about to apply for a job that requires the ability to obtain a secret clearance.
What is the process the DOD and like agencys use in determining a persons ability for clearance?

How far can they go in their background check of a person?
Can or do they interview relatives? Track your online activity? phycological evaluation?

Wat is the straight dope?

zut
09-11-2000, 07:41 AM
I used to have a secret clearance when I worked for a military contractor a while back. If I recall correctly, I had to fill out a pretty comprehensive form, mostly covering where I had lived and worked in the past, where I went to school, time overseas, drug use, finances, etc.

They called a couple of people I listed as references, and I think they called my parents, but I'm not aware of any more extensive background check than that. My impression was that they wanted to make sure that what I'd put on the form was correct (i.e., I had nothing to hide), rather than they were trying to dig up dirt in my past. No psych evaluation.

I suppose this is more of an anecdote than the straight dope, but hopefully it'll do until someone with more firsthand experience comes along.

Why A Duck
09-11-2000, 07:47 AM
If it's just a SECRET clearance and your background is clean, then it's a pretty harmless process. I got mine about 10 years ago and they didn't talk to anyone.

The process is pretty simple (heh-heh). Fill out a loooong form. Personal information, employment history, residence history, any criminal history. A few nosy questions about drug use and belonging to subversive organizations.

However, if you give them reason to check, i.e. previous arrests, admitting drug use, travel to questionable countries, etc..., then they may get a little more detailed. They won't talk to your 3rd grade teacher or anything like that.

The length of time it takes to get your clearance varies. I got mine in about 5 weeks, but other people have taken months, mainly due to an overload at the processing center.

All that changes if you go for a TOP SECRET or higher. That's when they start really getting nosy.

I'd tell you more, but I'd have to kill you ;)

pcubed

Yeah
09-11-2000, 08:06 AM
What pcubed, zut, and Osip have written accords with my experience; I got some kind of clearance (secret?) twice. The hardest thing for me was trying to remember the addresses of all the places I have lived. Fortunately, they changed the application a few years ago and you no longer have to list everywhere you've lived since you were 15 or something like that. I think you now only have to list where you have lived in the past 10 years or so. As I recall, they did interview a few of my current neighbors and coworkers. I think that the main thing they do in any application for security clearance is what is called a national agency check (or something like that) which means, I gather, they look to see if you are listed somewhere as a suspicious character.

In my experience, you have to allow six months to get a secret clearance. Maybe that has changed. It seems to me that I read that they now use contractors, rather than government employees, to do the investigations. (The six months can turn into six weeks if agency that is hiring you is in a hurry.)

Little Nemo
09-11-2000, 08:31 AM
So, Comrade Osip, don't worry about the imperialist running dogs checking into your online activity and denying you clearance to infiltrate their military command structure and forment a People's Revolution from within.

Crafter_Man
09-11-2000, 08:33 AM
I used to work at a Department of Energy facility that made triggering components for nuclear bombs. I had to get what's called a "Q Clearance," which is equivalent to a "top secret" clearance other agencies use.

It took about 8 months to get it. The detective assigned to my "case" talked to quite a few of my friends and relatives, and even visited some of my college professors. She also had another DOE detective stationed on the east cost talk to my former co-workers in Maryland.

All-in-all, she did a pretty thorough job, judging from feedback I received from acquaintances.

bdgr
09-11-2000, 08:59 AM
Originally posted by Yeah
What pcubed, zut, and Osip have written accords with my experience; I got some kind of clearance (secret?) twice. The hardest thing for me was trying to remember the addresses of all the places I have lived. Fortunately, they changed the application a few years ago and you no longer have to list everywhere you've lived since you were 15 or something like that. I think you now only have to list where you have lived in the past 10 years or so. As I recall, they did interview a few of my current neighbors and coworkers. I think that the main thing they do in any application for security clearance is what is called a national agency check (or something like that) which means, I gather, they look to see if you are listed somewhere as a suspicious character.

In my experience, you have to allow six months to get a secret clearance. Maybe that has changed. It seems to me that I read that they now use contractors, rather than government employees, to do the investigations. (The six months can turn into six weeks if agency that is hiring you is in a hurry.)


I work for a defense contractor now, and I put in for a secret clearance just over a year ago, still havent got it yet. Basically they just ask a ton of questions about where you lived, worked, etc. I know someone at work who when she got hers, they asked her in the interview how many times a week she had sex with her husband...thought that was kinda odd.

Bricker
09-11-2000, 06:35 PM
I have held both a DOD TS, and a DOE Q clearance.

For Secret, as others have indicated, the process is reasonably painless. YOu must submit both an SF-86 form and a fingerprint card. The clearing agency (DISCO, for contractors) will run a NAC (National Agency Check) on you. Basically, this is a credit report and criminal records check. If these are clean, they will call a few previous references and ask about your habits - to their knowledge, have you ever had problems with alcohol or drugs, or the law? They'll ask if you socialized with your work references, presumably to gauge how well the references actually know you. They almost always ask, "Do you know of any reason that this person should not be considered for a position of national trust?"

If no red flags come up, then you're in. If there's something inconsistent, they'll do a more thorough investigation.

- Rick

techchick68
09-11-2000, 06:53 PM
Although I don't know the procedures, my friend/landlord has a high level security clearance. He was in top level security clearance while in the Air Force and has maintained the civilian equiv. and works for a defense contractor. Prior to his retirement from the A.F. he worked as a communications engineer and even was in Saudi before the Gulf War setting up satellite systems and other communications devices, extremelly top secret.

With his current civilian security status, he is still authorized to work up at NORAD and recently helped put together and test some serious new computer/communications systems. He can't tell me much but does call me when he's bored with the testing. (TMI, sorry)

About 2 weeks ago, I opened my door to find a "U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Security Service" notice on my door.

Later that day the special agent returned my call looking for my friend/landlord in regards to someone putting him down as a reference.

They do check up on people, so this is part of the process. I don't imagine that they take security clearances lightly but I imagine it's not a big deal.

bdgr
09-11-2000, 07:20 PM
Originally posted by Bricker
I have held both a DOD TS, and a DOE Q clearance.

For Secret, as others have indicated, the process is reasonably painless. YOu must submit both an SF-86 form and a fingerprint card. The clearing agency (DISCO, for contractors) will run a NAC (National Agency Check) on you. Basically, this is a credit report and criminal records check. If these are clean, they will call a few previous references and ask about your habits - to their knowledge, have you ever had problems with alcohol or drugs, or the law? They'll ask if you socialized with your work references, presumably to gauge how well the references actually know you. They almost always ask, "Do you know of any reason that this person should not be considered for a position of national trust?"

If no red flags come up, then you're in. If there's something inconsistent, they'll do a more thorough investigation.

- Rick

Maybe thats why it is taking so long for me...I have a somewhat colorfull past...but then again, the other people I work with who put in at the same time, still haven't gotten theirs.

Badger

Mr. Cynical
09-11-2000, 07:34 PM
I would like to add that when I got my clearance, NOBODY ever asked me, "Brian, can you keep a secret?"

Not even once.

Lance Turbo
09-11-2000, 07:46 PM
I repaired radios in the army and had to get a TS clearance. As far as I know they didn't even bother to call one person, or at least I didn't hear anything about. Probably because I was 18 at the time and had a clean record. No real past to check up on, and at the time there was demand for my job.

Rysdad
09-11-2000, 08:09 PM
I worked for both the Army and the DOD after leaving the service. I had a low level clearance while in the Army, and upgrading it to Secret took about a month, IIRC. While waiting to be cleared to do my job, I processed payroll changes.

Funny...when I was getting out of the Army, they pulled everyone with any kind of clearance aside for a "security debriefing." They took us into a room and locked the door. Then a warrant officer said, "Remember the classified stuff you saw? Don't tell anyone." We all then signed a statement saying that we understood the implications of spilling the beans.

:::pulls up collar, pulls down hat, and slinks off into the darkness:::

Rysdad
09-11-2000, 08:11 PM
Damn commie smilies!

chique
09-11-2000, 08:50 PM
Everything all else said here is pretty much what I went through.

I had a TS/SCI clearance for the Navy. I had to fill out this form and include five references, none of which NIS checked. Instead they made the mistake of stopping in at the home of an alcolhoic bachelor farmer who lived down the road from us. Apparently it wasn't pretty - something about running them off his property while screaming "That little girl ain't done nuthin' wrong in her life! You bastards get the hell out of here and leave her the hell alone!" :)

kiffa
09-12-2000, 07:03 AM
I've had the standard and top secret clearance done. What a pain to put down all that information. I was so glad when they revised the form to a much shorter period.

I've seen real nuts get their clearance and, once, a friend didn't get it because of some anti Viet Nam war work! She now works for the UN [no, not Cassandra on Big Brother].

You can get a copy of the investigation report and I would highly recommend that you do because there are errors. Mr Kiffa's neighbor said that he beat his wife and was a real lowlife [he wasn't married at the time and, certainly not living with me]. Investigators are folks and errors/mistakes do happen. I lost mine when we were evacuated, but I believe they block out the name of informants.

Osip
09-12-2000, 06:30 PM
Thanks!

Osip

Cartooniverse
09-12-2000, 10:08 PM
Originally posted by Crafter_Man
I used to work at a Department of Energy facility that made triggering components for nuclear bombs. I had to get what's called a "Q Clearance," which is equivalent to a "top secret" clearance other agencies use.

It took about 8 months to get it. The detective assigned to my "case" talked to quite a few of my friends and relatives, and even visited some of my college professors. She also had another DOE detective stationed on the east cost talk to my former co-workers in Maryland.

All-in-all, she did a pretty thorough job, judging from feedback I received from acquaintances.


Daddy worked for the NRC. We went through the same 6-8 month wait, for his "Q" Clearance to go through. They were miffed that they couldn't go all the way back to birth records- they were burned by the Nazis :)

Aside from that, EVERYONE got phone calls. The telephone in our home was wiretapped for the duration of the background check, and every 5 years after that, during the update, it was tapped.

Cartooniverse

Max Torque
09-12-2000, 11:23 PM
Former Q-clearance holder here. My background was pretty thoroughly investigated; one college friend was kinda freaked out to get a call from "Lieutenant Colonel Suchandsuch" about me.

They go back to, oh, around high school. They want to know if you've been out of the country, and when, and if you correspond/talk to anyone in another country. Nothing too big; they really just want to make sure that you were where you said you were, when you said you were there. Openness is important; they don't care if you're a former drug user, so long as you don't lie about it.

One interesting question I was asked during my interview that you might want to be ready for: "Is there anything in your background that someone could use to blackmail you?" I think the reasoning behind this question is pretty obvious....

Fernmeldetruppe
09-13-2000, 04:39 AM
I concur with everyone else. Secret asks you where you've lived for the last 5 yrs. Top Secrect asks where you've lived for the last 15 years. Both were mostly paperwork and an interview. Interviewers are interested in trips outside of the country (USA, Germany...), but they mostly CARE about trips to "unfriendly" countries (Eastern Europe in the past). They will ask follow-up questions about these trips. The crux of the "friend" interviews is the question that Bricker quoted. Pretty easy, really. Just don't lie.

Don't know how far they can go, but they will find any convictions and credit problems. I'm doubtful about web searches/tracking. There may have been some psych questions, but I don't remember any. They can and may interview anyone they want. They do not limit themselves to the names you have given them.

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